Monday 28 February 2011

Excels Everywhere

Similar yet different. Purple Excels were been a familiar site in Lytham from 2004 to 2010 - sometimes in pairs when Line 7 struggled to keep to time - but with route branding gone they can appear alongside each other on the 7 (217 right) and 11 (213 left)
Recent changes have seen Excels back on their familiar service 7, but also stretching their legs onto other routes and they now appear across virtually the entire 'big bus' network interspersed with the Volvo B7s. This is quite a change for the Excels as they have almost always been restricted to one main route:
  • June 1996 to April 2001: - 44A/B (eves 333/444) (PVR 8, later 9)
  • April 2001 to Jan 2003:  Line 4 (PVR 7)
  • Jan 2003 to Mar 2004: Line 5 (PVR 9)
  • Mar 2004 to July 2010: Line 7 (PVR 8, later 10/11), pool buses regularly on 14 and occasionally on 6 and 11
  • July 2010 to January 2011: 2/2C (PVR 7), 17 (PVR 4)
  • January 2011 to date: 1, 1A, 2/2C (part), 7, 11 (part), 14 (part) shared with Volvos.
New livery 211 heads over the fragile Skew Bridge on Lytham Road prior to the imposition of a diversion for the 11 to affect repairs to the bridge.
The pool liveried buses saw wider use with the arrival of the ex Go North East buses in 2004 as the Excels now supplemented the Tridents on the 14 to guarantee low floor status and made occasional appearances on the 6 and 10. Now routes 1, 1A and 7 are fully single deck, the 11 and 14 split between single and double decks and there is one remaining single deck working on the 2/2C which is otherwise back to Solos. The odd example has appeared on the 9 which is mainly double deck worked.
216 waits time at the Big Blue Hotel while laying over on a 1A working

Saturday 26 February 2011

Closed for Business

Solo 256 heads down the still to be developed back road in the Business Park in October 2008
After four years Blackpool Business Park loses its bus service after the last Line 5 departure on Sunday 27 February. The Park has been developed on part of Blackpool Airport and is accessed by Amy Johnson Way from a junction with Squires Gate Lane at Halfway House. This road was formerly Blackpool Road which closed in 1940 to extend the Airport - it used to link Blackpool to Lytham and was served by route 11 from 1935.

Buses first ran onto Amy Johnson way in August 1996 when the 12A (Blackpool to Lindale Gardens) was revised to terminate at Morrisons. Buses turned at the first roundabout on Amy Johnson Way and stopped alongside the current petrol station before retuning to Blackpool. Lindale Gardens was served in both directions. At the time the route was operated by Deltas but the diversion was not successful and ended in November 1996.
Lifestyle Line L1 stopped close to the door as seen on dedicated bus 280 in 2004. These Solos carried council livery, previously reflecting their direct ownership of the buses which were operated on their behalf by Blackpool Transport
Solo 275, in Handybus livery enters Morrisons car park on the L1 in March 2004

Sister bus 276 heads to Manchester Square amongst the shoppers cars
Next attempt commenced on 8 July 2002 with the launch of the Lifestyle Line L1. This route was funded by two successful Urban Bus Challenge bids and phase one provided a service from Norcross to Morrisons via Grange Park, Victoria Hospital and Mereside. It initially terminated on Amy Johnson Way but later waited time at the Line 7 stop at Halfway House. From January 2003 a route into Morrisons car park was introduced with the bus now stopping virtually at the shop door. Phase 2 in July 2003 saw the route extend from Norcross to Fleetwood and Morrisons to Manchester Square with buses in both direction serving the Supermarket. Dedicated Solos 277-284 were allocated.

With the Hot Tub Showroom in the background new Solo 287 heads along Amy Johnson Way in the Business Park in the second month of Line 16 operation, May 2007

Deep in the Business Park, 287 has a long and circuitous journey ahead of it to Fleetwood

287 splashes through the puddles. Although the bus served roads were all named Amy Johnson Way this section was only served by the 16 with the 5 rejoining from the right reflecting further expansion of the estate by the time it started in 2008
The L1 was relaunched as Line 16 in April 2007 and was extended into Blackpool Business Park. Buses no longer entered Morrisons car park but continued along Amy Johnson Way into the depths of the Business Park - a round trip of  1.2 miles from Halfway House. New Solos 286-293 were dedicated. A half hourly frequency was maintained.

....or at least that was the plan. Solo 250 showing that some of first day Line 5s simply followed the 16 route.
 21 January 2008 saw the extension of Line 5 into the Business Park, following the 16 down Amy Johnson Way but also serving the new outer road where the Lightworks Illuminations Department facility is located. The 5 ran every 10 minutes during the day and half hourly evenings/Sundays. With two 16s per hour to both Blackpool and Fleetwood no less than 10 buses per hour served the Business Park. The diversion of the 5 rather undermined the terminal loop at Lindale Gardens which dated back to the 12A launch in 1988. Now passengers boarding in Lindale Gardens wishing to reach Blackpool had to endure a circuit of the Business Park or walk down to St. Annes Road.

With Morrisons Car Park no longer served new bus stops on Amy Johnson Way served the Supermarket - though it was now a long walk from the shop door.
 The extension of the 5 was funded by a 'Section 106' planning application condition and this is understood to have been exhausted and without a commercial case for continuation the service has been withdrawn, Line 16 having been routed away in July 2010. Although the business park is well developed and successful, as an industrial unit the main bus passengers would be workers with likely peaks in demand around shift finishing times. The diversion contributed to delays on the 5 as at peak times long queues backed up from Halfway House along Amy Johnson Way as the 5pm exodus took place.

The end of route branding has seen blue and green Solos augment the red ones associated with Line 5. The last pair of light blue Line 16 liveried examples appeared occasionally as demonstrated by 292 on 26 February.
 So from Monday the 5 returns to a simple terminal loop to Halfway House out via Lindale Gardens, back via St. Annes Road - probably to the benefit of its core market. The Business Park becomes a bus free zone and the car remains king. Sadly few are likely to be inconvenienced by the changes to the 5 - Morrisons becomes a little less accessible to the bus user though - but loadings in the Business Park were always low - especially on the last Boxing Day and New Years Day when an hourly service was provided somewhat optimistically!

Further along Squires Gate Lane are two further business parks. One which adjoins Amy Johnson Way was the home of Red Bus - a short lived operator of MCW Metrobuses on Blackpool Promeande in 2001. Beyond that is Sycamore Trading Estate where Phoenix North West was based until its demise in 2001. This estate was established many years ago and in the early 1980s feature the 'Venitian Glass Works' which had a factory tour. Fylde ran excursions there and a free bus ran from Blackpool Town Centre, initially run by Fylde but later by the Glass Works using ex Fylde 89 (609KD). This ended in 1984 when the Glass Works closed down. With two failed bus companies and several failed bus services sadly it seems bus ventures associated with Amy Johnson Way just cannot take off.

224 returns

The 12th refurbished Optare Excel 224 has returned to service. It spent Saturday on the sole Excel duty on  service 2 and 2C. It carries the new livery as applied before it left for Cummins.

Thursday 24 February 2011

Where are they now

Redundant Blackpool buses have turned up in many places from Inverness to Devon over the years. Few remain now as most of Blackpool's recent disposals have been for scrap. Fleet number hyperlinks should take you to recent pictures on flickr.

Leyland Atlanteans
Only three new to Blackpool Atlanteans remain in regular service, 354, 357 and 361 are all with Scotbus in Inverness. 334, 343, 353 and 362 are preserved, 350 is with Blackpool Council and 356 is a playbus. 309, 322, 325 and 326 have fallen into the abyss - showing as unlicensed on the DVLA website since 2009/10 having previously been on SORN declaration.
Former GMPTE/Fylde/Blackpool Atlantean 467 has spent its retirement outside the Pilot Boat Inn in Dulas on Anglesey as seen here in 2006
Of the ex Fylde examples, new to Manchester 468 has recently been identified at a showjumping venue on Jersey! Sister 467 and new to Fylde 478 both remain as static playbuses as the Pilot Boat Inn at Dulas, Anglesey and Haynes Motor Museum respectively. 445, 458, 471 and 479 remain in preservation, 496 is understood to have been old on to buyers unknown while 444 remains with a Salford dance troupe and 474 is in store with Bedfords of Blackburn equipped as a mobile cafe. LTT's 134/7 are the sole remaining single deckers.

Leyland Titan
518 remains with Chepstow Classic Bus, while LTT's 529 sees service with Classic Bus North West. 246, 300, 346, 351, 390, 501, 506, 507, 511, 512, 516 and 540 also exist in preservation as does 515 for spares. 386, 398, 532 and possibly 503 still exist abroad.

AEC Swifts
LTT has 554 and 570 in preservation, sister 589 was in private preservation and may still be but has not been reported for some time.

Optare Deltas
128 is still with Preston Bus as a driver trainer, now under the ownership of Rotala. 109 has been confirmed with Kanes Food of Middle Littleton, Evesham for staff transport and 127 is believed to be with it. Two Deltas are currently being purchased for preservation.

No City Pacers remain in active service, 560 and 575 are preserved, 562 and 574 are believed to survive as caravan conversions. No less than five Metroriders are preserved (502, 509/10, 589/90).


Former Blackpool 525 returned to London service after use in Reading. It is one of several owned by Transport for London and operated by First London on route 9. It carries this Silver livery as it ones one of 25 so treated for the Queen's Silver Jubilee in 1977
Not surprisingly the Routemasters have the highest survivial rate with 12 out of the 13 still active. 521 is with LTT, 522 is preserved in its refurbished 'returned to London' condition, 523-6/31/3 active on heritage routes 9 and 15 in London, 528 is with London Bus for Hire, Raglan having returned to bus configuration after several years kitted out as a submarine internally for the Royal Navy. 529 runs for the London Bus Company in Rainham, 530 for London Heritage Travel, Essex and 534 with Autocar. 527 is the missing one, exported to Poland without trace.
Only 206 (GHA) and 208 (Stagecoach) remain in use. GHA have 201 in store, 202 is with a dealer in long term store, 203 is now at a scrapyard in Barnsley and may have joined 204/7 as scrapped by now. 205 was reported with Richards Bros in South Wales for spares last year.

Open Toppers
The former City Sightseeing Metrobuses have been spread far and wide. 802 is in San Diego; 821/2/92 in Washington and 864 is in Portugal, all on City Sightseeing work. Of the two short term hires, 817 is closer to home with ACE in Liverpool and 850 was exported to Cyprus. Olympians 844/9 are with Alpine, Llanwrst.

Other Buses
Nationals 156, 542 and 543 are preserved in Glasgow, with LTT and in Ireland respectively. 147 is stored on Lowestoft docks. Lancet 597 may still survive in store in Hexham with a preservationist, though its condition is poor. Prewar Tiger 7 is preserved in Sussex.

Some of the Seagull Coach fleet survives. Tiger 21 has recently been reactivated after some time in store with Nelson, Glynneath - though it is reportedly sold so its current owner is unknown. 22 is used for school services with Tourex in Oxfordshire. Tiger 27 remains with Confidence of Leicester while DAF 26 is currently untraced following withdrawal by Travel Express of Baildon. Dennis Javelin 27 is believed to remain in Ireland to where it was exported in 1999 after less than a year with Blackpool Transport.


The tramway upgrade and Promenade road remodel work is entering a new phase with changes to the diversions. Broadwater crossing is open so the 14 has reverted to its usual route except for the diversions in Fleetwood and Blackpool.
Line 14 is currently diverted twice in Fleetwood. The most recent is a diversion via Poulton Street due to the tramway trackwork which has closed Lofthouse Way crossing. Here 315 makes its way round its detour.
In Cleveleys the 1 and 7 have regained their standard route but Victoria Square crossing is now closed. The 3 now has a terminal loop arriving in Cleveleys via North Drive and Victoria Road West to terminate at Victoria Square and then back to Blackpool as normal via the Crescent and Anchorsholme Lane.

As Anchorsholme Lane crossing is also closed, the 4 is diverted from Norbreck via Fleetwood Road to Cleveleys bus it is still able to serve North Drive and Valeway Avenue on its return to Blackpool. The 9 and 16 run as normal to Victoria Square then left onto Crescent East, across the tramway at Lauderdale Avenue back along Crescent West with the 9 turning into Victoria Road West to reach Cleveleys Bus Station and the 16 crossing the tramway at York Avenue to reach Victoria Square loading point. The 9 returns to Blackpool via its normal route.

In the town centre last week saw the standardisation of the use of Park Road and Reads Avenue for southbound buses, rather than Adelaide Street and Coronation Street, the latter often subject to delays on busy days. Reads Avenue or Palatine Road have been used when recent roadworks have closed Coronation Street.

Other diversions in the Town Centre are the result of the closure from Adelaide Street to Talbot Square from Sunday evening until 17 June; with access now available to the Promenade southound between Gynn Square and Talbot Square.

Southbound service 1 will continue to divert at Gynn Square via Dickson Road but only as far as Pleasant Street before turning onto the Promenade and into Talbot Square. Northbound buses will use the full length of Dickson Road. The 3, 4 and 15 will also use the Promenade from Pleasant Street. [corrected]

Northbound buses on the 1A, 5, 7, 10, 11, 14 and 17 are diverted via Chapel Street (1A, 11) then Central Drive, Albert Road, Cookson Street, Talbot Road to reach Market Street or Clifton Street - there is to be no bus stop between Chapel Street (Central Pier for 1A and 11) and Cookson Street (old Bus Station).
Weight restrictions on Skew Bridge - already designated 'weak' like many over the South Fylde line in recent years - are now causing diversions to the 5, 10, 11 and 68 from the end of February. In 2008 Delta 126 climbs the bridge.
Allied to this, a further weight restriction has been imposed on Skew Bridge on Lytham Road and it appears buses are no longer exempt. This has major impacts on the 5, 10 and 11 which divert from Monday:
  • 5 withdrawn from Business Park and will divert at Lytham Road/Watson Road via Watson Road, Bond Street and Station Road in both directions
  • 10 is diverted for virtually half its route as it will continue along Central Drive from the Town Centre diversion to St. Annes Road Bridge and then turn left onto Watson Road and vice versa on return journeys. It will no longer serve Lytham Road.
  • 11 will follow the same diversion as the 5 between Lytham Road/Watson Road and Station Road. 
The 5 and 11 will be retimed to reflect the route change and it is not known how long the diversion will last nor if the removal of service from the Business Park is permanent.
The weak bridge on Lytham Road needs emergency repairs and single file traffic flow has been imposed prior to complete closure to buses from next week. Trident 322 and Solo 261 head down the bridge on services 11 and 5 which will be subject to diversion from Monday.

The 5's extension into the Business Park at Squires Gate ends on 27 February. This shouldn't inconvenience many and will give a better service to passengers boarding on Lindale Gardens who are no longer to be subjected to the tour of light industry. The 5 has suffered reliability problems for most of its life and this change may help address these, albeit offset by the lengthy diversions..
Sundry short term diversions have impacted on various routes with the 5 and 7 diverted away from St. Annes Road at Halfway House for a couple of days last week (the 5 via Common Edge Road and the 7 via Lytham Road). The next is the 4 which is to be diverted in Cleveleys Park via Ringway, Blaydon Avenue, North Drive and Newcastle Avenue for around six weeks.

Tuesday 22 February 2011

More repaints

Trident 325 has replaced 327 in the paint shop and will become the 15th of the 40 Tridents to receive the new livery.

The ex Go North East Excels are receiving mobitec LED destinations to replace their non standard dot matrix ones. 219 has been completed, 220 will follow and 221 will presumably be done on its return from Cummins. Volvo 527 is currently back with Plaxton for accident damage repairs. One single decker (Excel 217 today) is still allocated to the 2C covering the busy 0732 departure from Knott End.

Wednesday 16 February 2011

First Change on the 78

Coastal Enviro KX57FMF passes the Blossoms pub on route 78
Coastal Coaches 78 seems to be keeping up with the pace of change set by its predecessor the 18. The problem of serving Ansdell has yet another possible solution. Initially the 17 (like the 2 before) ran via South Hey and then along Blackpool Road past Fylde Rugby Ground. When replaced by the 18 it was diverted via Worsley Road, Central Drive, Gordon Road and Commonside to serve Ansdell shops. This involved a buses on an unserved section of Worsley Road and prompted a rethink with South Hey dropped and the buses running via Smithy Lane, Church Road and Worsley Road then as before.
Solo 'Miss Hannah'  is about to cross Woodlands Road on the old route on 11 Feb

5 days later and Master Liam swings into Commonside from Woodlands Road on the new route
Along came the 78 which included the length of Edwinstowe Road, South Hey (in the opposite direction to the 17) and then Smithy Lane etc. Now the logical solution of readopting the original route along South Hey and Blackpool Road and then via Woodlands Road and Commonside has finally been adopted - presumably from Monday 14th.

The 78 is the first regular bus service along Woodlands Road since service shortlived minibus services 1/2 (St. Annes-Lytham) of winter 1989/90.

More Olympian withdrawals

The Trent Olympians are perhaps most associated with Line 1 and its orange and yellow livery as shown here by 404
With a reduced requirement for double deckers since the end of January, following the changes to Line 7 which removed the need for the two double deck operated peak duplicates, Olympians 404 and 409 have now been withdrawn.
Of the earlier withdrawals ex West Yorkshire 367 is now in for component recovery prior to departure from scrap. Sisters 365, 366 and ex Trent 401 and 403 remain in store at Jackson's Marton.

As yet there have been no Solo withdrawals, though it is still expected that some of the 1999 batch will be declared redundant.

Olympian 409 demonstrates the original green and cream livery carried, while on service 6 in March 2001

Monday 14 February 2011

City Sightseeing 2011

Initial details of the 2011 City Sightseeing service have been released. The City Sightseeing website reports a half hourly service operating with a tour time of 60 minutes from Market Street from 18 July to 4 September and 24 to 30 October. The tour has been registered by Blackpool Transport already and appear to run from Market Street to St. Annes via Blackpool Promenade.

This presumably means the open top Olympians will no longer provide service 20 to the Zoo and Marton Mere however details of the 2011 operation of this service are not yet known.

Sunday 6 February 2011

Coastal on the 78

Black and White - Coastal's on loan Enviro KX57EME in plain white contrasts with the black and yellow of Blackpool Volvo 524 which has taken over from Solos on Line 7.
Coastal's temporary Enviros are becoming a common sight in Lytham St. Annes on new route 78 and their existing route 76. 

In other news Blackpool Transport Trident 327 has replaced 328 in the paint shop for a full repaint in black and yellow.
Passengers board KX57FMF in Lytham Square

Tuesday 1 February 2011

Round Up

Last Sunday's service change to Lines 7 and 17 has seen single deckers return to the 7 and Solos return to the 2/2C. The 17 has also been converted to Solo operation on Monday to Saturdays, matching the Sunday allocation. Prior to the changes 11 single deckers were allocated to the 2/2C and 17 and 15 Solos to the 7 and 18 so the net effect of the service change is to render four Solos surplus - though no withdrawals have yet been identified. Dennis Trident 336 has emerged from repaint - the last ex Blackburn example treated.

Coastal Coaches are operating five Alexander Dennis Enviro 200s on hire from Dawson Rentals to cover its increased requirement for routes 76, 78 and the evening 17. They are KX57FME; KX08HMF; KX58GVA; KX57FMF and KX58GTF. These are expected to be replaced by new Optare Solos in the near future.